Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

Upon receiving a message from the Lord with information about something that seems quite impossible, individuals may become filled with doubt, floundering this way and that way, asking “how/why?” repeatedly. In the end, they may or may not be obedient to the message, because of that doubt and unbelief.

A young peasant Jewish girl who received a message from God through an angel, Mary displayed a faith unknown to most: “Then in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by Adonai into a town in the Galilee named Natzeret and to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Miriam (Mary). And coming to her, the angel said, “Shalom, favored one! Adonai is with you” (Lk.1:26-28). Now she certainly was taken aback, especially when the angel went on to say,“Do not be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you shall call His name Yeshua. He will be great and will be called Ben-Elyon. Adonai Elohim will give Him the throne of David, His father. He shall reign over the house of Jacob for all eternity, and His kingdom will be without end”(Lk.1:30-33). Most young girls would have been hysterical at such a message if they were a virgin and they knew this didn’t make sense, plus they knew the condemnation, shame, and ostracism they would be subjected to. “Miriam (Mary) said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am not intimate with a man?” And responding, the angel said to her, “The Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) will come upon you, and the power of Elyon will overshadow you. Therefore, the Holy One being born will be called Ben-Elohim” (Lk.1:34,35). Mary seemed to take it in stride, once the angel answered her question; she so simply and obediently responded: “Behold, the servant of Adonai. Let it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her”(Lk.1:38). Notice how little it took for Mary to align with God’s will and plan, despite the fact that not only did it not make sense to her, but the social consequences could be horrendous. What a model of trust, obedience, and surrender.

Certainly we cannot know what went on in her mind, and how she understood these words, but in any of the text covering this story, Mary’s demeanor (study the magnificat, Lk.1:46-55) reflects only calm, peaceful, trust in the Lord, even joy. She so trusted the Lord that she was accepting of His plan even though she would not have been able to grasp all the implications of what this meant and what it would look like, how it would play out. She merely surrendered the situation to Him. And later, when the baby was born and the shepherds came, proclaiming the greatness of this child, she must have been confused, but the only documentation we have is that “Miriam (Mary) treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk.2:19); so we know she must have had questions, but she seemed to have peace with it. She did not appear to be stressing out over it, although the Scriptures may simply exclude those details. She had a strong faith, which enabled her to be obedient to God’s call.

Joseph, too, could have been panic-stricken, and could easily have taken drastic action, and quite validly opted out of the marriage. It would have been quite acceptable for him to do so; all the wrath would have fallen on Mary, not him. I’m sure that when he first received the news, he went back and forth in his mind regarding his options, “But while he considered these things, behold, an angel of Adonai appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Miriam (Mary) as your wife, for the Child conceived in her is from the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit). She will give birth to a son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt.1:20,21), he must have initially thought he was losing his mind. That would be a normal first reaction. Yet the Scriptures tell us that “When Joseph woke up from his sleep, he did as the angel of Adonai commanded him and took Miriam (Mary) as his wife”(Matt.1:24); so regardless of what he may have felt or thought, his immediate response was to trust and obey, proceeding as the Lord’s Angel directed.

That same degree of trust, obedience, and total reliance on God was displayed when “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another way”(Matt.2:12); instant obedience; no questions asked. He believed God, and followed the angel’s instructions: “Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of Adonai appears to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the Child, to kill Him.” So he got up, took the Child and His mother during the night, and went to Egypt” (Matt.2:13,14). He waited for God’s instructions before making a move (something so often forgotten by Yeshua’s followers): “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of Adonai appears in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those seeking the Child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the Child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel. But hearing that Archelaus was king of Judea in place of his father Herod, he became afraid to go there. Then after being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of the Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Natzeret, to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets, that Yeshua shall be called a Natzrati” (Matt.2:20-23). He did not attempt to figure things out; he didn’t question; he simply went. That was it. Total surrender relinquishes one’s own will, one’s own thoughts, bringing freedom to simply wait for God’s instructions and follow them. Sadly, most believers spend much unproductive time analyzing, calculating, rationalizing, and determining what they think they should do, instead of “leaning not on their own understanding, but relying instead on the Lord’s” (Prov.3:5-7), acknowledging that He knows best.

What lessons in faith, trust, obedience, and surrender, lie within these examples for us! They also exemplify how God works and how He communicates. They demonstrate to us that:

  1.  God will provide us with just enough information, equipping us for some impending situation (Mary’s pregnancy, in this case);
  2.  God warns us of threats in order to protect us;
  3.  We should never short-circuit God’s plan by jumping ahead of Him. Notice how both Miriam/Mary and Joseph waited for the Lord to advise them;
  4.  God always knows what is best;
  5.  It isn’t important that we understand all the reasons;
  6.  What is important is that we listen, and do as God instructs, whether our message arrives through an angel, or some other form.
  7.  God will take care of us when we trust Him and surrender the situation to Him, leaving it in His Hands.
  8.  We need not second-guess; just respond with obedience.
  9.  Both Miriam/Mary, and Joseph demonstrate a walk of surrender, an excellent model for all believers to follow. Keep in mind, too, that neither had attended special classes, programs or conferences, they simply walked in intimacy with God the Father. Walking in surrender is a heart issue. It either comes from the heart, or it doesn’t happen.

God’s principles have not changed; these foundational tenets still apply. We need to practice walking in faith; walking in that surrender that enables us to be immediately, and unquestionably obedient.

© 2015, revised 2016, 2017, 2018 by Verna Crowther. All rights reserved.


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